Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/157

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sacred books are developed in the earlier stages of civilization, when men explain everything by miracle and nothing by law.[1]

As the second of these laws governing the evolution of sacred literature may be mentioned that which we have constantly seen so effective in the growth of theological ideas—that to which Comte gave the name of the Law of Wills and Causes. In accordance with this, man attributes to the Supreme Being a physical, intellectual, and moral structure like his own; hence it is that the votary of each of the great world religions ascribes to its sacred books what he considers absolute perfection; he imagines them to be what he himself would give the world were he himself infinitely good, wise, and powerful.

A very simple analogy might indeed show him that even a literature emanating from an all-wise, beneficent, and powerful author might not seem perfect when judged by a human standard; for he has only to look about him in the world to find that the work which he attributes to an all-wise, all-beneficent, and all-powerful Creator is by no means free from evil and wrong.

But this analogy long escapes him, and the exponent of each great religion proves, to his own satisfaction and the edification of his fellows, that their own sacred literature is absolutely accurate in statement, infinitely profound in meaning, and miraculously perfect in form. From these premises also he arrives at the conclusion that his own sacred literature is unique; that no other sacred book can have emanated from a divine source; and that all others claiming to be sacred are impostures.

Still another law governing the evolution of sacred literature in every great world religion is that when the books which compose it are once selected and grouped they come to be regarded as a final creation from which nothing can be taken away, and of which even error in form, if sanctioned by tradition, may not be changed.

The working of this law has recently been seen on a large scale.

A few years since a body of chosen scholars, universally acknowledged to be the most fit for the work, at the call of Englishspeaking Christendom undertook to revise the authorized English version of the Bible.

  1. For the legend regarding the Septuagint, especially as developed by the letters of Pseudo-Aristeas, and for quaint citations from the fathers regarding it, see The History of the Seventy-two Interpretators, from the Greek of Aristeas, translated by Mr. Lewis, London, 1715; also, Clement of Alexandria, in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Edinburgh, 1867, p. 448. For interesting summaries showing the growth of the story, see Drummond, Philo-Judeeus and the Growth of the Alexandrian Philosophy, London, 1888, vol. i, pp. 231 et seq.; also, Renan, Histoire du Peuple Israel, vol. iv, chap, iv; also, for Philo-Judæus's part in developing the legend, see Rev. Dr. Sanday's Bampton Lectures for 1893, on Inspiration, pp. 86, 87.